LAWRENCEVILLE — The rally to save Erik Cordier from his fourth loss came a little too late and fell just short.
The Gwinnett starter took his fourth loss of the season in a 4-2 decision, but after taking a line drive off his head in the sixth inning wins and loses became a secondary concern.
But with one out in the sixth a ball that could have ended the inning smashed into the back right side of the pitcher’s head sending him to the ground in a heap.
Chiefs 4, G-Braves 2
What happened: Syracuse starter Craig Stammen dominated the Gwinnett Braves, holding them to just five hits over 81⁄3 innings. Gwinnett starter Erik Cordier allowed two runs over 51⁄3 innings before taking a line drive to his right ear in the sixth inning. Syracuse added two runs in the ninth off Anthony Varvaro. Matt Young went 2-for-4 and was the only G-Brave with more than one hit. The three and four hitters, Stefan Gartrell and Mauro Gomez, struck out five times but did manage hits in their final at-bats. Gwinnett scored its run in the bottom of the ninth, but the rally came too late.
Close call: Erik Cordier took a line drive off his right ear in the sixth inning and was taken off the field on a stretcher. He was listed in stable condition at Gwinnett Medical Center with a contusion on his right ear.
Chiefs come alive: Syracuse entered the series with the G-Braves the worst hitting team in the International League. In the final two games of the series, the Chiefs hit up Gwinnett for 30 hits and 16 runs.
Pivotal moment: Anthony Varvaro allowed two runs in the top of the ninth, digging a hole too deep for the G-Braves late rally to overcome.
On deck: Gwinnett begins a 10-day, 10-game road trip through Columbus, Louisville and Durham today with RHP Todd Redmond (5-6, 2.52 ERA) facing the Clippers LHP David Huff (6-2, 3.64).
Even before the RBI single play had ended head trainer Mike Graus, manager Dave Brundage and teammates surrounded Cordier on the mound. Moving his legs, the pitcher stayed on his back until he left the field on a stretcher. He waved as he was carted off the field to applause. Juan Abreu entered and struck out the final two batters saving his teammate any more runs.
Cordier was taken to Gwinnett Medical Center with a right ear contusion in stable condition. He was awake as he left Coolray Field. The team was still waiting on word from Graus at the hospital at the end of the game, but Brundage said he had a deep laceration on his head.
“I’ve seen my fair share,” said Brundage noting the balls that cost Class A Lynchburg manager Luis Salazar his eye and the one that hit former G-Braves pitcher Rodrigo Lopez in the chin during spring training. “It puts the fear of God in you.”
And it came during a strong start.
Coming off a rough outing five days ago, Cordier was off to his best outing since June 7, when he pitched six scoreless over seven innings. Thursday was just his sixth start of the season after starting the year on the disabled list recovering from off-season surgery.
“He figured it out the last couple of innings,” Brundage said. “He was throwing the ball much better.”
But the bats were quiet against Syracuse’ Craig Stammen. Gwinnett managed just five hits and only had one runner pass second base until the ninth inning off the starter, finally chasing him with one out in the eighth.
The right-hander from Ohio pitched 81⁄3 five-hit innings, he struck out nine and walked one. He didn’t allow a hit for 18 straight batters after giving up a lead-off single to Jose Constanza to start the game. He struck out Mauro Gomez three times and Stefan Gartrell twice. He picked off a runner and got a double ground ball to face just 30 batters in the game.
“Tonight was a tough ballgame,” Brundage said. “(Stammen) kept us off balance. We weren’t very patient.”
A 2-0 deficit grew to 4-0 in the top of the ninth when Anthony Varvaro allowed the first five batters of the inning to reach base. The extra two runs were the insurance Syracuse needed.
In the ninth Matt Young singled and his aggressive running on a Stefan Gartrell hit forced a throwing error and led to a run. Mauro Gomez knocked in Gartrell to make it a two-run game. Brandon Hicks and Diory Hernandez both came to the plate as the tying run and Hicks struck out swinging and Hernandez grounded out to end the game.
“We had better at-bats and we certainly put up a fight,” Brundage said.